SDSU Common Read follows refugee struggles to find community


As the Common Read program moves into its third year, Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town by Warren St. John has been chosen as the book for Fall 2011.

The Common Read is a program to enhance student learning and engagement through a common intellectual experience.

The common read program was instituted in Fall 2009 to increase diversity awareness at SDSU. According to Tim Nichols, dean of the Honors College and coordinator of the common read initiative, SDSU was not performing to the standards of the National Survey for Student Engage­ment — an organization that works towards things like exposure to diversity, pro­viding enriching educational experiences and active and collaborative learning.

“We are thrilled that both the book’s author, New York Times Columnist Warren St. John, and its central figure, Coach Luma Mufleh, will be on campus this fall,” said Nichols, dean of the SDSU Honors College and coordinator of the common read initiative.

Outcasts United tells the inspiring story of the Fugees, a refugee soccer team in rural Georgia, who come together despite differences to overcome obstacles and find friendships, strength and success. “The lessons of the book are important for our students and our community,” Nichols said.

The common read initiative will include more than readings, quizzes and classroom lectures. “We have put together a compelling series of enriching educational experiences designed to actively engage students and community members in the themes of the book,” Nichols said. “We are particularly excited about possibilities for involvement with SDSU, Brookings and Sioux Falls soccer,” he said. “Sport brings people together, and soccer is truly a global game. As Coach Mufleh suggests, the Fugees are about changing the world, one game at a time.”

This fall’s common read activities begin with a “Kicking It” event at 7 p.m. Sept. 20, in Frost Arena featuring comments fromSDSU Women’s Soccer Coach Lang Wedemeyer and conversation about soccer and diversity.

At 7 p.m. Sept, 22, in Agriculture Engineering 100, Amy Zimbelman of Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls will present “Refugees in South Dakota: Who Are the New Faces?”

The South Dakota World Affairs Council will host the Consul General of Mexico Sept. 26 to talk about issues that include immigration and relations between Mexico and the U.S.

It will be Common Read Day at the SDSU Women’s Soccer team’s home game against Oral Roberts, starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 30, at the Fishback Soccer Park. The SDSU team will also host a soccer clinic at the fields for local youth on Oct. 16.

An award-winning documentary, God Grew Tired of Us, tells the harrowing story of three Sudanese “lost boys” and their journey to America, and it will be shown at 7 p.m. Oct. 3, in Alumni Auditorium at the South Dakota Art Museum.

A common read hunger banquet community night is scheduled at 7 p.m. Oct. 11, on campus in the Volstorff Ballroom at The Union. This annual event features a meal based on world food distribution along with a panel discussion about local service opportunities. Tickets are $2 each and are available throughSDSU’s Teaching and Learning Center.

The book’s author, St. John, will give an address at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Performing Arts Center titled, “The Changing Face of America: Building Communities Through Diversity.”

Coach Luma Mufleh will cap the common read sequence of events when she delivers the Griffith Honors Forum Lecture in Frost Arena at 7 p.m. Nov. 9. Free tickets are required for admission and will be available on line in October.

This marks the third year of SDSU’s common reading program. Past books included Mountains Beyond Mountains in 2009 and Three Cups of Tea in 2010. As was the case in 2010, the city of Brookings will partner with SDSU in the common readprogram. Local benefactors will provide Brookings public school students with copies of Outcasts United or related age-appropriate material.

Portions courtesy of